Saturday Creativity Quote — on flow

Rushing water between two large sedimentary rocks

Flow. We know it when we feel it, but what is it? How can we cultivate it? A new study done at the Drexel University Creativity Research Lab used brain imaging to study jazz guitarists working on an improvisation and summarizes the results this way:

“The findings reveal the creative flow state involves two key factors: extensive experience, which leads to a network of brain areas specialized for generating the desired type of ideas, plus the release of control — “letting go” — to allow this network to work with little or no conscious supervision.”

I like this so much, not just because it rings true, but because it also tells us what we can do to experience flow more often and more readily: practice the work, whether it’s chord structures or writing dialogue, creating new pathways in the brain, and practice giving up conscious control of the process and the results.

4 thoughts on “Saturday Creativity Quote — on flow

  1. That is so true. I never know what’s going to happen next in my books, what my characters are going to say or do. I may have a general idea, but then they take over. It’s just an incredible feeling.

    • It is! Flow, though, is not so much that sense of discovery you describe as it is the sense of being compelled through the work, of being lost in it. The two often go together, but aren’t quite the same thing. The concept was first articulated by Czech psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Flow and explored further by Susan K. Perry in Writing in Flow: Keys to Enhanced Creativity, which provides a lot of insight and useful examples. But I love the simplicity of this study’s conclusion.

  2. The brain is so fascinating, and the study of creativity has been a lifelong passion of mine. Recent developments in brain imaging have really helped us learn a lot more.

    Thanks for the reminder that mastering of skills is crucial, and then telling the intellect to “back off” a bit, and letting intuition lead the way is part two of the process.

Leave a Reply